by Teodora Kaneva, Programme manager, SmarterUK
The idea of the connected or smart home – in which the products and services we use in our homes are augmented by their connection to networks, increasing their ability to improve our lives by making them safer, more comfortable and more efficient – is a future that’s been visualised and imagined in popular culture for some time.
It seemed that this would come to fruition earlier than expected, with smart TVs looking to become the norm in homes very quickly. But since then, the uptake on other categories of devices seemed to slow dramatically. In order to understand this, techUK has conducted three years of research to better understand what can be done to improve market appeal, consumer understanding and ownership. In that time, we have already seen shifts to ease uptake, but there is much more to be done to improve this through collaboration between government and industry, and greater engagement with consumers.
According to this year’s research, progress is certainly being made in terms of uptake in connected home devices. With the industry doing very well in terms of improving consumer confidence in device security, increased interoperability leading to consumers purchasing a greater number of devices from different categories and becoming much more aware of how these devices can improve their comfort in the home.
We saw that a record eight out of 10 consumers now know something about the smart home. This is a positive step, one we feel will lead to greater numbers of consumers adopting new products.
Another positive outlook from the market is that 52 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for a smart rather than a non-smart product when it comes to home security. Consumers are also willing to pay premiums for health monitoring devices. Again, this shows a move towards maturity and increasing competition will help to improve offerings for consumers and provide greater value.
However, although we have seen improvements, our research shows that the top three key barriers to consumers when it comes to the connected home have been cost, privacy and lack of awareness and these have remained more or less the same for some time
So, what must be done?
If the industry is to convince consumers of the benefits of the connected home, it must be committed to develop its narrative around value. Our report showed that industry is still struggling to do this.
An active part of this will be addressing the concerns that consumers have around the security and privacy of the smart home. This will require collaboration with government. The industry has worked closely with the government on its “secure by design” legislation, but more can be done in conjunction with the government’s National Cyber Security Centre to establish greater technical legislation covering products already on or going into market.
The industry must also do more to encourage consumers so their ecosystem and network of smart home technologies can bring even greater benefits.
In conjunction with this we also see a role for government – firstly, in recognising the part smart home technologies can play in delivering the government’s Grand Challenges policy paper, such as the goal to be carbon net-zero by 2050. Smart meters can do a lot to encourage this, as well as other ways in which smart products can increase their own energy efficiency.
Secondly, we see an opportunity for government to work with connectivity providers and energy suppliers to provide the best ecosystem for the market to flourish. This includes pushing forward with commitments made in the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, such as new offers for consumers on home energy management systems, smart tariffs, smart appliances and electric vehicles.
The benefits of the connected home are real. Work from industry and government to foster this sector will make people’s homes more safe, more comfortable and more efficient. And, if we get this right, the growth in the market here in the UK could be extremely beneficial to our economy and society through efficiency improvements and our ability to share best practice with the rest of the world.